Whether it’s a point guard in a power forward’s body dishing out crazy assists or a 7-footer raining 3’s on one end and and swatting shots on the other, one thing is for certain. College basketball unicorns do exist.
Part of what makes this sport so remarkable is athletes achieving feats that, quite frankly, you or I can only dream about. Here are a few players that will take your breath away at some point during this season.
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
6-6, 225-pound forwards aren’t supposed to be able to do this.
Vert test today pic.twitter.com/mCDXBjoRo1— Miles Bridges (@MilesBridges01) June 30, 2016
Bridges cleared the maximum vertical bar, and he makes the basket behind him look like a nerf hoop.
Michigan State has had some tremendous players in recent years, but it hasn't seen a combination of size and athleticism like this. The Spartans have plenty of spots to fill from last year’s roster, and obviously, there is a lot more to basketball than being able to jump high and run fast.
But those talents certainly make the game easier. In order for Michigan State to contend for a Big Ten crown, Bridges will have to be an important piece. Time will tell if he sinks or swims, but he’ll be a college basketball Vine sensation regardless.
Chris Boucher, Oregon
Boucher might be the most unique player in college basketball. Listed at 6-10, 200 pounds with a 7-3.5 wingspan, people might not know what to make of him.
Being so slim, one might think Boucher gets pushed around on the glass. Not so. Boucher averaged 11.4 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots per 40 minutes last season. He has an impressive combination of length, athleticism and defensive instincts that can devastate opponents.
And we haven’t even gotten to the most intriguing part of Boucher’s game yet. He shoots 3’s, and he’s effective in doing so. The Oregon center made almost 34 percent of his triples last year on 3.1 attempts per game; nobody is confusing him with Dirk Nowitzki, but defenses must honor his ability to shoot. That’s crucial in the Ducks’ five-out scheme.
OG Anunoby, Indiana
Anunoby developed a cult following by the end of last season, and it was due to his diverse skillset. And his absurdly long arms. Anunoby is listed at 6-8, 215 pounds, but he has a 7-6 wingspan and is an absolute terror defensively.Anunoby also appears to be much stronger than his 215-pound listing; he’s a cinder block on the defensive side of the floor, capable of deflecting multiple passes in the same possession or swatting shots into the third row.
There probably isn’t a player in America that Anunoby can’t guard, and he also showed massive offensive progress as last season wore on. Anunoby only averaged 4.9 points per game in 13.7 minutes of action, but he made 56.9 percent of his field goals and nailed 44.8 percent of his 3-point attempts. OG Anunoby isn’t the next anyone. He’s just OG Anunoby, and that’s bizarre and beautiful at the same time.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA
By all accounts, Ball is one of the best passers to arrive in college basketball in the last decade. He’s also 6-6, which inspires all sorts of comparisons that I’ll leave to your imagination.
Ben Simmons was a polarizing college basketball player, but there’s no denying how fun he was to watch last season. Some of the passes he made were unfathomable. Ball has never played a college basketball game, and we don’t know how good he’s going to be. But an athletic 6-6 point guard with ‘the passing gene’ and solid surrounding talent at UCLA? The Bruins will be worth watching in 2016-17, and Ball is the primary reason why.
Tyler Lydon, Syracuse
Here is the case for Lydon’s unicorn-ness summed up in two plays:
Lydon is the rare floor-spacer who is capable of banging down low and protecting the rim on defense. As a freshman, he often played in the middle of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.
With 7-2 Providence transfer Paschal Chukwu in the fold, Lydon will likely shift to the wing this season. That’s probably best for he and the Orange, but his versatility is mightily impressive.
Of the players on this list, the Syracuse sophomore has the most polish. Lydon averaged 10.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game on 40.5 percent 3-point shooting for a Final Four team last year. He can do just about everything on a basketball court, and guys like that are few and far between.